A far-right Christian group is asking politicians across the country to sign a "marriage protection" pledge before Congress begins a debate on a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar states from recognizing gay marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. The Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council wants legislators to "protect the inviolable definition of marriage" with a pledge that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. It calls for laws banning the institution of contractual obligations for people in common-law marriages, people in same-sex marriages, and people who live together. Colorado state representative Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) said Tuesday that he is one of the first state lawmakers to sign the pledge. He said he will make public a list of all politicians who have signed the pledge when the Colorado legislature convenes in January. "Politicians who make excuses for not signing this will do so at their peril," Schultheis said. Colorado is one of 37 states that have restricted recognition of gay marriages.
The effort to amend the U.S. Constitution was launched by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), who said the nation needs to protect the institution of marriage. Musgrave's plan got a boost last week when President Bush proclaimed October 12-18 Marriage Protection Week, which had been organized by a coalition of conservative groups seeking to build support for the constitutional amendment. Despite the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being a union between one man and one woman, backers of the amendment say it is needed because there is no constitutional protection for the rights of traditional married couples if other groups receive equal benefits.
The Reverend Phil Campbell, who organized a coalition of 40 Colorado clergy members to fight Musgrave's proposed amendment, said the pledge makes clear that supporters of the amendment want to ban civil unions, including common-law marriages, and force people to accept a religious definition of marriage. "I don't think it's appropriate for the laws of our country," Campbell said. Colorado senate minority leader Joan Fitz-Gerald said that changing the U.S. Constitution to ban legal recognition of nontraditional marriages would interfere with personal decisions and personal rights.
Family Research Council spokesman Bill Murray said his group wants to get politicians on record before the fight begins in Congress over the amendment: "This is a precursor to that battle. We are asking every state and federal official to sign it so we can tell people where their elected officials stand."